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Reported Speech (Direct and Indirect Speech)

Reported Speech (Direct and Indirect Speech)

We may report the words of a speaker in two ways:

a. We may quote his actual words. This is called Direct Speech.

b. We may report what he said without quoting his exact words. This is called Reported or Indirect Speech.


John said, “I am very busy now.” (Direct)
John said that he was very busy then. (Indirect/Reported)

It will be noticed that in Direct Speech, we use inverted commas to signify the exact words of the speaker. In Indirect Speech we do not.

Also, in changing the above Direct Speech into Indirect certain changes have been made. Thus:

  • We have used the conjunction that before the Indirect statement. (The that is often omitted especially in spoken English.)
  • The Pronoun I is changed to he. (The Pronoun is changed in Person)
  • The Verb am is changed to was. (Present Tense is changed to Past.)
  • The Adverb now is changed to then.

Therefore, it is clear that there are changes that happen when Direct Speech is changed to Indirect Speech.

Basic Verb Shifts for Indirect Speech (statements):

Original Verb  

Reported Form

Present simple
He said, “I dance all the time.”

Past Simple
He said (that) he danced all the time.

Present Progressive
He said, “I am studying now.”

Past Progressive
He said (that) he was studying then.

Past Simple      
He said, “I studied yesterday.”

Past  perfect
He said that he had studied the previous day.

Past Perfect
He said, “I had studied earlier.”

Past Perfect
He said that he had studied earlier.

Present Perfect
He said, “I have studied the topic.”

Past Perfect
He said that he had studied the topic.

He said, “I will study!”

He said (that) he would study!

He said, “I can study for the exam.”

He said (that) he could study for the exam.

He said, “I should study for the
exam tonight.”

He said (that) he should study for the exam tonight.

He said, “Study!”

He said to study!

However, if reporting about general truths, we do not need to shift the verb tense back.

For example,

John said, “The sky is blue.”
John said that the sky is blue.

Other common changes

You may need to adjust other words. Common changes can be:
I to he/she
to that
to there
to the day before
to that day
to then
tomorrow to the following day

Reporting questions

When reporting questions, there are certain rules to follow, as is clear from the following examples.

Original Verb

Reported Form

He asked, “What are you doing?”

He asked what I was doing.

He asked, “Why do
you study in the

He asked why I
studied in the library.

He asked, “Have
you ever been to Venice?”

He asked whether/if
I had ever been to Venice (or

Exclamations and wishes

In reporting exclamations and wishes, the Indirect Speech is introduced by some verb expressing exclamation or wish.


Alice said, “How clever you are!”
Alice exclaimed that I was very clever.


Change the following Direct Speech to Indirect Speech.

  • He said, “Be quiet and listen to my words.”
  • He said, “I shall go as soon as possible.”
  • Jill asked, “Why do you look sad?”
  • My teacher said, “I have marked your papers.”
  • “Will you be at home tomorrow?” my friend asked.
  • “What a pretty dress!” Ethel said.
  • “Can I drop you home?” asked Harry.
  • “I was sick yesterday,” Elena said.


  • He urged them to be quiet and listen to his words.
  • He said that he would go as soon as possible.
  • Jill asked why I looked sad.
  • My teacher said that she had marked our papers.
  • My friend asked if I would be at home the following day.
  • Ethel exclaimed that it was a pretty dress.
  • Harry asked whether he could drop me home.
  • Elena said that she had been sick the previous day.

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